Quarantine is depressing and anxiety provoking

SARS left a psychological ripple as well

Hawryluck L, Gold GL, Robinson S, et al. SARS control and psychological effects of quarantine, Toronto, Canada. Emerg Infect Dis 2004; 10(7). Web: www.cdc.gov/ncidod/eid/vol10no7/03-0703.htm.

Many people who were home-quarantined in Toronto due to exposure to severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) suffered depression and anxiety, researchers have found.

A fascinating follow-up to the global outbreak, this study suggests that if a massive quarantine is ever required in the United States, it will cause no small measure of psychological damage.

SARS was contained globally by widespread quarantine measures, measures that had not been invoked to contain an infectious disease in North America for more than 50 years, the authors noted.

The mandated lack of social contact — especially the lack of any physical contact with family members — was identified as particularly difficult, they reported.

Confinement within the home or between work and home, not being able to see friends, not being able to shop for basic necessities of everyday life, and not being able to purchase thermometers and prescribed medications enhanced the feeling of distance from the outside world.

Infection control measures imposed not only the physical discomfort of having to wear a mask but also significantly contributed to the sense of isolation.

In some, self-monitoring of temperature provoked considerable anxiety. While most quarantined persons (60%) did not believe that they would contract SARS, 59% were worried that they would infect their family members.

Following quarantine, 51% of respondents had experiences that made them feel that people were reacting differently to them: avoiding them, 29%; not calling them, 7%; not inviting them to events, 8%; and not inviting their families to events, 7%, the authors reported.